The National Weather Service (NWS) reported at 5:45 a.m. that the current cold front extended from Plumas County, Calif. east to Pershing County. By 7:49 a.m., the NWS said snow was beginning to hit the valleys of Reno and Sparks due to a low pressure system sitting overhead in the Sierra mountains.
Snow showers dropped an estimated three to five inches of precipitation and much of the snow fell along the I-80 corridor in the metropolitan areas of Reno and Sparks, but tailed off south in Reno, according to the NWS. Snowfall was largely finished by early afternoon but temperatures did not rise above 32 degrees and dropped below 20 degrees during the evening.
Washoe County School District (WCSD) did not have classes delayed or schools closed Tuesday morning but it did release schools one hour early in hopes of getting children home safely before the evening commute in freezing temperatures. Tracy Moore, emergency manager for WCSD, said after-school meetings and sporting events were also cancelled district wide along with afternoon Kindergarten classes.
“Our bus drivers have been trained for this type of weather and they will be using what we call ‘winter bus stops,’ which are designated zones along the primary routes that a bus travels to get kids home,” Moore said at WCSD’s administrative offices Tuesday. “There is a good chance you might find a stop that is not a primary travel route for the buses and the municipal agencies are not going to plow that route. We want to make sure our buses are driving on a plowed route.”
The school district uses multiple forms of communication, including the Connect Ed system, the district’s website and various forms of social media, for parents to know about any delays or cancellations quickly. Moore tipped his hat to the WCSD Communications Department for spreading the word quickly once the emergency management team pulled the trigger on the early release.
“We sit in the meetings and we make the decisions, but the Communications Department is the one pushing out the social media and updating everyone frequently,” Moore said. “I always commend them for doing their job because it is very difficult to send a message to hundreds of thousands of people.”
Moore, a native of the region, said he understands the feeling of hearing meteorologists discuss a major storm and seeing it personally disproved the following day. He admitted it can be frustrating, but locals should exercise caution during winter commutes whether a storm is expected or not.
“You just have to plan for the worst, and that is what we do,” Moore said. “Sometimes, the storm is going to come in and it hits the Sierras and it gets blown apart, but you have to be ready for the worst.
“Based on what we saw this morning, when the storm immediately hit, we saw a drop in temperature and we saw a lot more accumulation of snow than we anticipated. At that point, we thought we better move and make the early close.”
Moore said his team begins observing weather conditions at about 2 a.m. and then works with transportation supervisors to see if routes are able to be traveled, and by 5 a.m. the decision is made whether to cancel or delay school.
One person not complaining about the snow was Greg Tethrow, who was happy to clear walking paths between the rows of Christmas trees being sold on Prater Way near the Ironhorse Shopping Center in Sparks. He said it became a little easier to market the fresh-cut Oregon trees when a little holiday snow glistened off them.
“I absolutely love it,” Tethrow said. “It gives the trees a real seasonal look. As far as being out in it all day, I am loving it because I grew up in Phoenix.”
Tethrow said the family business has sold about 50 Christmas trees thus far with weekend expectations high. Two shipments of trees are expected this week and Tethrow said the snow did not affect him much on Tuesday.
“I think the road department has done a good job today because we have seen a good flow of people coming through. I haven’t had any problems,” he said. “I stayed up late last night waiting to see if it would snow, but seeing it come down this morning is pretty cool. I will probably be playing in it today.”
Washoe County sent out 22 snow plows early Tuesday morning to clear roads in the region and apply a de-icing solution to the roads in advance of expected cold temperatures for the coming days. Washoe County Road Operations Superintendent Adam Searcy said there are more than 1,000 miles of roadway that need to be cleared in the county during snow events and residents can help out in many ways.
• When shoveling a driveway, don’t dump snow on the sidewalk or roadway, as this increases the snow that’s likely to become a berm in your driveway when a plow goes by.
• Be visible to snowplow operators by maintaining a safe distance behind them.
• Keep all objects out of the road, gutters and right-of-way so they don’t become flying objects.
• Keep all drainage outlets open if possible to help control the melt-off from snow and ice as temperatures rise during the day.
• Keep vehicles and garbage cans off the streets so crews can plow the entire street.
Roads are cleared by Washoe County on a priority basis and a mapping of the roads can be found at wcgisweb.washoecounty.us/SnowPlow.